Underfunding of art programs looms

By Andrea Curiel
Flapjack staff

For many involved in a creative program, their involvement is their main method of stress relief. Take away that method of stress relief, and the negative results are endless. Then there are the countless stories of shy, introverted teenagers possibly saved by joining some kind of creative ensemble and coming out of school with irreplaceable friend groups and outgoing personalities. Art programs are crucial to human development. But in many public schools, they’re becoming obsolete.

Braedyn Tawyea, psychology major at Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts, was involved in his high school’s music program and thoroughly believes his involvement was beneficial to his overall health and wellbeing.

“I love music so I participated in choir, band, and marching band in high school. I got to relieve a lot of stress when I played or sang,” Tawyea said. “I would say 100 percent that art programs aren’t seen as valuable anymore, which sucks considering how helpful they can be when you’re stressing about core classes and you just want that one fun class to be creative in.”

With President Trump’s proposal to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities,  federal support for the arts is on track to failure. New York Times writer Sopan Deb reports that only $300 million of the $1.1 trillion annual discretionary spending is currently being put towards both endowments, and each endowment receives a multitude of grants from coveted artists for decades, which solidifies the importance in society. Unfortunately, the government thinks otherwise, and some are fully determined to eliminate all “unnecessary” spending.

In K-12 public schools, similar funding concerns have resulted in classroom creativity being overlooked at young ages, and the emergence of increasingly STEM-heavy curriculum.

In high schools, art programs are losing funding, and are treated more as electives instead of requirements. Music programs are forced to fundraise year-round, art and theater classes resort to using scrap materials, journalism and design programs lack the proper technology to generate a decent product.

However, on the other end of the educational spectrum, science labs receive new equipment more frequently than arts programs. Math lessons are more prevalent than music lessons, and it seems as though being unable to write a decent sentence is not a problem as long as you know how to balance math equations.

Ana Judith Puga, a 19 year-old environmental studies major at HSU, is passionate about the sciences but has always had a special connection to the arts.

“I do feel like art programs have decreased because people don’t think funding for art is as important for as other academics,” Puga said. “I took art and music classes in middle school and high school, and our theater class was never a class, just a separate program.”

Recent high school graduate Kasea Horn, 19, believes her lack of involvement in art programs was because of the severe underfunding of them.

“I was involved in photo for two years,” Horn said. “I was never really too involved though because the programs at my school had no money. It’s like art programs aren’t really emphasized in school these days.”



Tenacity of Ferocious Few rages on

By Matthew Hable
Flapjack Staff

On a cold San Francisco night inside a humid Bottom of the Hill on June 23, 2011, The Ferocious Few walks up to the stage in front of a sold-out crowd of about 250 people. They are opening for the venerable Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs.

Francisco Fernandez, frontman and founder of The Ferocious Few, is dressed in black from neck to toes and hair slicked back like Ricky Nelson. He picks up his black acoustic guitar and signals his sit-in drummer for the first tune. The lights dim and Francisco aggressively strikes an acoustic chord. They ferociously rip through their 45-minute set with a series of rapid strumming, drumming, and various tales of the devil and heartbreak.

The crowd woos and applauds with sincere excitement in between songs. Francisco ends his set alone with a moving dedication to San Francisco, a ballad called “The San Francisco Song.” The crowd cheers after he finishes the song, the lights brighten and the house DJ cues up his playlist.

Fast forward to spring 2016. Fernandez retreats to Los Angeles to recuperate from failed personal and business relationships in the Bay Area. Following an eight-month stay in Berlin and a brief visit in Oakland, Fernandez moved to Austin, Texas in January 2017 with a newfound determination to reinvigorate his music career.

“I went through every possible mistake you can make,” said Fernandez. “I feel more prepared to start all over again.”

Fernandez puts his coffee down on the table and gathers his thoughts. It’s a gloomy day outside Figure 8 Coffee Purveyors, a small cafe located in East Austin. He is wearing a cream-colored nudie suit, a design less flashy than the one Gram Parsons wore. Fernandez’s hair is slicked back as usual and he is wearing eyeglasses with a thick black frame.

The Ferocious Few was established in 2005 in Oakland. Fernandez, 21 years old at the time, aspired to create a politically-charged rock band in the style of Rage Against the Machine, but has since evolved into a distinctive blend of Richie Havens-meets-Motörhead. Do512, a website dedicated to Austin’s entertainment scene, describes The Ferocious Few as “a twist of punk and a bit of rockabilly.”

Booking concerts in the Bay Area was challenging during the formative years of The Ferocious Few—they were fairly inexperienced musicians and new to the area. It wasn’t long before members of The Ferocious Few dwindled from a quartet to a duo.

“I realized how hard it was to manage different personalities,” said Fernandez in regards to the downsizing of the band.

Fernandez recruited his friend Dan Aguilar on drums—together they developed their act by busking in the streets of San Francisco.

Acoustic guitars are typically fingerpicked or strummed with moderate intensity, but Fernandez sweeps through his acoustic guitar with mesmerizing speed, aggression and accuracy. Combined with his gravelly vocals and Aguilar’s equally powerful drumming abilities, an irresistible showcase of musical talent is presented.

“There was a time, years ago now, when Francisco and Daniel played on the streets here in San Francisco often,” said Richard Woodul, longtime fan and friend of The Ferocious Few. “Although I played several instruments when [I was] younger, I did not pursue a career in music, so their drive and passion for their music is admirable to me.”

It wasn’t long before passersby started recording The Ferocious Few and posting videos of their street performances on YouTube. Concert promoters and local musicians started noticing their videos online, which led to bookings not only in the Bay Area, but throughout the country.

In 2009, The Ferocious Few signed to Birdman Records, an independent record label based in San Francisco and owned by David Katznelson, former A&R vice president of Warner Bros. Records. The following year, they released their debut album Juices and promptly hit the road.

“One of my fondest memories with The Ferocious Few is from a few years back,” said Maria Scott, former merchandise hand for The Ferocious Few. “They were opening for Cyndi Lauper in Oklahoma to a packed venue… not a lot of people knew who The Ferocious Few were and so they weren’t paying much attention at first, but by the second or third song, the whole place was up on their feet hooting and hollering for more!”

At this point in their career, pressure is beginning to apply to the band, partly because of contractual obligations to recoup their expenses. Aguilar left The Ferocious Few in 2011, because he wasn’t willing to commit to the high demands and insufficient pay of touring. Shortly after Aguilar’s resignation, Fernandez collaborated with new musicians and signed to a management deal.

That “toxic” management relationship “went sour fast,” said Fernandez.

Balancing the business side of music while being an artist was awfully frustrating to Fernandez. The demands of leading new musicians and complying with management obligations took a mental toll on him that ultimately led to abandoning his own project and management team. The one good thing to come out of this experience was a polished self-titled album that was officially released in 2016—many years later due to contractual reasons.

The years 2013-2017 proved to be a wandering period for Fernandez. In 2013, he briefly relocated to Martinez, a city in the East Bay, before traveling through Texas and up to New York, where he laid low until summoning up the enthusiasm to perform at SXSW in March 2014. Immediately after SXSW, Fernandez travelled to Los Angeles—he formed a new band under The Ferocious Few and it wasn’t long before they toured up and down California, including a stop at Coachella. Later that year, Fernandez settled with a woman in Oakland—he stayed put until the relationship ended in October 2015. Shortly after their separation, Fernandez made his way back down to Los Angeles to not only recover, but to spend more time with his sister. In May 2016, he packed up his belongings and moved to Berlin. He performed at various gigs throughout Germany, Netherlands and Switzerland for the next eight months.

Fernandez recorded and self-released an album entitled Ousted in October 2016, which is about “the push of the creatives out of their preferred habitats and the pushing of gentrification,” he said. “It is also about my personal life.”

That December, Fernandez moved back to Oakland, where he discovered that a number of his friends had passed away in the infamous Ghost Ship fire. This tragedy triggered Fernandez to plot his next move in life, for it is unpredictable and transitory. In January 2017, he packed up his belongings once again and moved to Austin. Eventually, Fernandez found a home in East Austin and jobs delivering groceries as well as remodeling houses.

Austin is famous for its lively music scene, which constantly attracts aspiring musicians from all over the world. As with most metropolitan cities, the high concentration of artists in one area creates a tremendous challenge to break through the underground threshold, especially in the internet age. Despite the hurdles Fernandez continues to face, he remains positive and hopeful.

“I don’t know if any place is my place—playing music is my place. When I feel empowered to do that, where sustainability is working despite capitalism; where you can get fairly compensated for your work; you have a safe, clean place to sleep; you can provide a service that people want, then move to the next situation—that sounds like more of a happy place for me.”

With upcoming gigs and two albums to plug, The Ferocious Few shows no signs of calling it quits anytime soon.

Ted Meyer: From advertising to band director, Amsterdam to California

By Andrea Curiel
Flapjack staff

Full-time music director at Orange Glen High School in Escondido, California, Ted Meyer resides in his living room-esque style office in the school’s newly built music building. A large, homey rug is placed at the office’s main entrance, topped by a casual coffee table normally covered in coffee cups, sheet music, and stuffed manila envelopes. At his desk, Meyer’s collection of paperwork and college memorabilia describe him as someone who is proud to be busy.

Meyer’s past “office” was his history classroom in room 412, where he taught subjects ranging from AP European History to senior economics. Meyer has been a teacher of many subjects at Orange Glen for 19 years, but he believes that his passion has always been music.

“I began playing the trombone in the elementary school music program in 5th Grade,” Meyer said. “And I continued playing in school bands through college and grad school.”

During his college career, Meyer was a part of both the Stanford and University of Southern California marching bands. The same year as Meyer’s arrival to USC in 1970, the band hired a new music director who Meyer described as a game changer for the university’s music department.

“[He] changed the band from a semi-pro group of college kids, grumpy music majors, and local pro musicians into a ferocious, arrogant band of Trojan fanatics dedicated to the glory of the university,” Meyer said.

Meyer’s experience at Stanford, however, was the polar opposite. He explains that the Stanford band was entirely student-run. The professor was very absent, giving the band full creative freedom.

“The professor who was assigned to the class arranged a few of the songs, conducted “The Star Spangled Banner,” then left the football games,” Meyer said.

Following Meyer’s experience with USC and Stanford, he had the opportunity to be a teaching assistant for the University of South Carolina’s Gamecock marching band. Meyer explains that his role as a T.A. was to improve the performance of the tuba section, which is only one of his teaching experiences.

“My contribution as a T.A. was largely to get the tuba section to believe in itself and really blow,” Meyer said. “It did change the sound of the group and as long as I could keep the tuba players under control the director let me do whatever I wanted.”

Surprisingly, Meyer actually started gaining teaching experience prior to his time at the University of South Carolina giving music lessons in high school. He started giving private trombone lessons as a sophomore in high school, through college, up until he moved to Europe in 1988.

Although his experiences are heavily music based, Meyer’s education and post-college life was not music based at all. Meyer’s early degrees from USC and Stanford are strictly history, world culture, and economic based, which are what make him so interesting.

Meyer explains that his degrees are reflective of his realization that he probably wouldn’t be a professional musician.

“When I discovered I was not going to become a professional trombone player I looked around for interesting General Ed classes and discovered an Asian History survey class that sounded fun,” Meyer said. “One thing led to another and I ended up going in a very different direction than I had expected to when I got into college.”

In fact, Meyer’s first job after grad school wasn’t history or even music related. He was given a position as assistant director of admissions at USC. Through that job, however, Meyer was given a gateway into the unpredictable world of advertising.

At USC, Meyer was given the task of developing recruitment systems for out of state students. In need for guidance, he contacted an experienced professor on campus for help and ended up receiving more help than he had anticipated.

“I discovered that one of the business school profs had owned an ad agency, so asked him for advice,” Meyer said. “As we became friends, he told me to go see his friends in the ad business and ‘tell them I sent you’.”

Meyer took his offer, and was surprised to find out what his contact was capable of.

“Since his had been one of the largest and most successful agencies in L.A. with names like Mattel Toys and Marie Calendar’s Restaurants, his name opened lots of doors for me,” Meyer said.

After delving into the advertising business, Meyer got the opportunity to move to Europe to direct business in Amsterdam.

“As director of client service in Amsterdam, my responsibility was for all Nissan car & truck advertising in Europe,” Meyer said. “The best part of working for ad agencies is that life is never dull.”

Meyer was unfortunately not allowed to teach music in Amsterdam, and after a few successful years in the advertising business, Meyer felt musically deprived.

“When I lived in Europe I was not allowed to teach music either privately or in schools, and I missed it,” Meyer said. “My life was unbalanced, so after four years I retired from ad work, came back to the U.S. and became a music major at ‘The Original USC.’ (University of South Carolina).”

Eventually, Meyer found his way to Orange Glen High School in 1998 after deciding to move closer to his son in Anaheim, California, where he took over the school’s music department for the first time. In his first three years, Meyer managed to triple the size of of the music department before his untimely hearing loss in his ear due to a tumor.

“I took over a marching band of 80, a choir of 18, and a concert band of 50,” Meyer explained. “Three years later when I lost the hearing in my right ear due to a tumor O.G. had a marching band of 128, 90 singers in 2 choirs, and 2 concert bands of 60 each. But I couldn’t hear well enough on the right side to balance the groups.”

Unfortunately Meyer had to step down as music director and took a year off to deal with his medical issues, but his love for the school never wavered.

“I still loved O.G.,” he said. “After a year off on sabbatical I came back to OG but in the history department and spent the next 15 years teaching history.”

And his students loved him. Josue Puebla, 20, Meyer’s former history student and Orange Glen alum, explains his love for teaching and history as contagious.

“He was really passionate about history,” Puebla said. “When he taught about history he was actually excited, which would rub off on his students and make us actually want to learn.”

While teaching history, however, Meyer had to undergo heart surgery and was forced to take another leave which resulted in another surprise for him.

“In 2012, I had open-heart surgery,” Meyer said. “Amazingly some of the medicine they gave me for that started to shrink the tumor that was crushing my auditory nerve so I now have about 80 percent of my hearing on the right side.”

This good news made him a candidate for music director again, which was eventually asked of him by the school principal three years later. Meyer thought it’d be a challenge, but he took the job anyway.

“I inherited a band of 19 and a choir of 10 which was pretty scary, so this is certainly a learning and teaching experience for me but I still love it,” Meyer said.

In one year, Meyer has been able to double the size of the music department and win the hearts of a new genre of students.

Meyer’s current music student, 17 year-old Austin Alegre, describes him as a father figure.

“He is a funny, witty and outgoing person who is like a father to everyone he meets. He just genuinely cares about his students and that’s what make him perfect,” Alegre said.

Orange Glen alum Philana Williams, 19, had Meyer as both a history and music teacher, and she describes him as one of the most influential people at the school.

“Meyer goes above and beyond the call of duty as a teacher,” Williams said. “He’s never made me feel like an obligation. I believe he has a sincere desire to serve his students.”

Opera’s not ‘old-timey’ after all, music student discovers

By Grace Becker
Flapjack staff

The first singer of the music department’s learning session March 17, Jessie Neuffer, 21, walked out in a black and gold mermaid-style dress. Short, dark hair pulled back against her she smiled at the applause from her classmates and friends, and stood quietly as her accompanying pianist sat at the massive Steinway. Maybe someone who didn’t know what they would be watching would have expected something different, but as Neuffer opened her mouth, a flowing, elegant, Japanese opera echoed through the music department performance hall.

A student at California State University Stanislaus, Neuffer is in her third year at the school. She lives in nearby Modesto, and commutes five days a week, attending her voice and music theory classes, as well as performing in “directed learning” performances where she performs a piece in front of her classmates and professors.

Opera wasn’t always on the table, however. While Neuffer always knew she wanted to be a singer, and has taken lessons since she was in the fourth grade, it wasn’t something she really enjoyed.

“I love classical music, but I hated opera,” Neuffer explained. “I actually started studying music at Stanislaus State with a plan to go on Broadway but I wanted classical training. It wasn’t until my sophomore year that I started to like opera.”

It was the role of Cherubino from the opera Le Nozze di Figaro that started Neuffer’s love of opera. Cherubino is what is known as a “pant role” or “trouser role,” which is when a woman plays a man or a boy.

“I always though opera was so boring because you had these long arias that never seem to end and you had to play these boring female roles of like, the main, or the gossipy servant, or a mother, or the damsel in distress,” Neuffer said.

It turned out, though, that with her voice type she can play all the pant roles that she thinks are really fun. After getting the role of Cherubino she did more research and opera quickly became an obsession.

“Now I really think that opera is a lot more interesting than most people know,” Neuffer said. Her love of opera is very evident in the way she describes it. It has dramatic story lines that are fun to perform, and isn’t just this ‘old timey, stuffy kind of art.’

Opera is hard, though. Neuffer explained that it is challenging because there is a great deal of technique just in the singing alone, not to mention the acting and sometimes even dancing. You sing opera without microphones, so your voice has to be able to carry in big opera houses.

“Also the language…that is a whole other story,” Neuffer sighs. “You have to try to connect to the text and know the language as much as possible. Most opera singers speak many different languages that they sing in.” Neuffer has sung in Japanese, French, Russian, German, and Italian, though she cites German has her favorite to sing in.

“I just love all of the consonants and the sounds you make that sound like you’re clearing your throat. I like taking all of those sounds and using them to my advantage to make the diction and the scene more dramatic,” Nueffer described.

Though opera is a more recent obsession, her love of music is a family affair.

“Music is something I grew up with,” Neuffer explained. Both of her parents are music teachers, and her father performs with different orchestras. Her mother teaches band, orchestra, guitar, choir, and winter percussion. Music has always been a big part of her life.

Close friends and classmates praised Neuffer’s talent, as well as her progression as an artist. Nueffer’s partner, Jaime Farrar, commented on her transformation.

“It’s not just her singing, which is great, but just the way she holds herself,” Farrar said. “It’s very poised, and kinda just captures your attention. She’s always been amazing, but watching her grow has been awesome.”








Love speaks at Siren’s Song Tavern

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By Bailey Tennery
Flapjack staff

Red curtains were draped along the walls of the Siren’s Song Tavern. A live artist painted on a blank easel. Fold up chairs were set up, but there weren’t enough chairs to seat everyone who came to listen to the brave people who went up to the microphone to share what they had prepared .On  Feb. 2,  from 7:30 – 9:30 p.m., Therese FitzMaurice and Vanessa Vrtiak hosted a poetry slam night in downtown Eureka to connect the community .This month’s theme was love in all its many forms.

DJ Goldylocks’ real name id Jay Collins, 29. Collins spun records throughout the night. Before DJing he worked for a pirate radio station. Goldylocks was his alias name. The name originated from his best friend’s younger brother. Collins used to go to the Accident Gallery where the poetry slam used to be held. He loved going, but wanted to do more.

“I’ve known Vanessa since childhood we grew up in Mckinleyville together,” Collins said. “When she came back from Santa Fe, I told her I wanted to DJ for her.”

Not all speakers who performed read poetry. There was a political rant, a scripted theater performance, a music solo, and one short story about a robot learning to love.

Erin Eckis, 25, is a Humboldt state graduate. Currently she works as care a taker for disabled adults. Eckis tries to go to these events as much as she can.

“I learn something about myself when I listen,” said Eckis. “Spoken word moves something inside of me.”

A local filmmaker Eileen Mcgee ,65, arrived early to the Tavern to set up her video camera. Each participant who went up to speak was filmed.

“People share, we can all relate,” said Mcgee. “This provides a political forum to put on television.”

Mcgee puts the footage on a website called Archive.org. The site is a community based nonprofit. Mcgee has been filming for more than 10 years. She has been filming poetry slams going on 5 years.

Co-host Vanessa Vrtiak an inmate program coordinator in Eureka created a friendly and welcoming environment. Vrtiak mixed profanity into her speeches when holding the mic in her hand.

“I have no filter, no one will remember this,” said Vrtiak as she laughed. Mcgee sitting behind her camera waves a hand to gets Vrtiak’s attention then quietly she pointed to the video camera.

“The camera will remember, and so will you I guess,” said Vrtiak.